Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bank Boss Blames Sleep Apnoea for Fatal Crash

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bank Boss Blames Sleep Apnoea for Fatal Crash

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Kennedy Court Reporter

ABANK boss who allegedly killed a van driver when his car drifted into oncoming traffic on the A1 claims he was unconscious through undiagnosed sleep apnoea at the time.

Gordon Soutar, operations director at Virgin Money, in Gosforth, Newcastle, is accused of causing the death of Nigel Sowerby by dangerous driving.

Prosecutors claim he had been driving at speed in his BMW on his way to work from his home in Scotland one Monday morning.

It is alleged Soutar became distracted at the wheel near Felton, in Northumberland, and his car drifted into oncoming north bound traffic on the single carriageway stretch.

One vehicle had to swerve onto a verge, he struck a glancing blow to another then hit Mr Sowerby's VW Caddy van almost head on, killing him and seriously injuring his passenger.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the bank boss accepts his car caused the fatal collision but claims he cannot remember anything about the journey south of Berwick.

Jurors were told that after the accident Soutar went for tests and was found to have obstructive sleep apnoea.

He denies causing death by dangerous driving on the grounds he must have been unconscious during a "micro-sleep" associated with the disorder.

However prosecutors say Soutar had been "hurrying along" the motorway and doing overtaking manoeuvres and claim the real cause of the crash was him becoming distracted.

Julian Smith, prosecuting, told jurors: "This is not a man on autopilot, on the contrary it's clear he was hurrying along the A1 and in the minutes before this accident he had overtaken a number of cars, something in the region of five.

"The Crown say that manoeuvre was clearly considered and was done at speed in the face of oncoming traf-fic, which does not fit in with a micro sleep, which is akin to drowsiness. …

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